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Financial inclusion measurement goes mobile

Leora Klapper's picture

This blog post was originally published on the Microfinance Gateway.

These are exciting times for those of us in the business of measuring financial inclusion. Technology is remaking the financial system every couple of years — and we're adapting the Global Findex survey questions accordingly. Our new data, which we're launching in April 2018, features bundles of new questions on financial services accessed through mobile phones and the internet.

We started collecting data for the first round of the World Bank's Global Findex database — measuring how adults in more than 140 countries worldwide save, borrow, and make payments — in 2010. Back then, our survey asked people about their use of paper checks.

Mobile money was so nascent that we had a few questions about mobile payments, but nothing about mobile money accounts. That came later, with the vastly expanded mobile money module in the 2014 Global Findex.

Hot off the press: The Global Financial Development Report 2017/2018: Bankers without Borders

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

GFDR 2018 cover image The decade before the 2007–09 global financial crisis was characterized by a significant increase in bank globalization, which also coincided with dramatic increases in bank size. International banks became the cornerstone of many financial systems around the world, also in developing countries. Proponents of international banking emphasized the potential gains in terms of much-needed capital, know-how, and technological improvements that foreign banks bring, leading to more competitive and diversified banking systems, improved resource allocation, and greater financial and economic development.

However, the global financial crisis has led to a significant re-evaluation of this conventional wisdom. With the crisis, there was a backlash against globalization in general, and the emphasis shifted to the role international banks can play in shock transmission. Developing countries felt the impact of retrenchment by global banks. Global banks were criticized for taking excessive risks. Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the G20 voiced concerns about how to deal with the resolution of too-big-to-fail banks. As a result, regulations and restrictions got stricter in many countries, particularly in developing countries, further contributing to the retrenchment kicked off by the crisis.

Global Financial Development Report 2017/2018: Bankers without Borders, the fourth in the series, brings to bear new evidence on the debate on the benefits and costs of international banks, particularly for developing countries. It provides figures on recent trends, emerging patterns since the global crisis, and evidence on the economic impact of international banking. The goal is to synthesize evidence and data to contribute to the policy debate on international banking.

Addressing the SME finance problem

Sergio Schmukler's picture

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy, being the main contributors to employment in developing and developed countries. Despite their importance, access to finance is relatively limited when comparing to large firms and is a major operating constraint for SMEs. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that to satisfy the demand by formal SMEs around the world credit had to increase between 900 and 1,100 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

In a new policy brief (Abraham and Schmukler, 2017), we explore the obstacles to SME finance and some of the solutions that have been put in practice to try overcome them.

Can key facts statements outperform financial education?

Xavier Gine's picture

Now that the Nobel Committee has decided to award the prize once again for work in behavioral economics, it is a good time to study the role of disclosure formats for effective consumer protection.

We partnered with CONDUSEF, the financial consumer protection agency in Mexico, and the Superintendent of Banks in Peru to test which types of product disclosures work best for savings and credit products by low-income consumers in Peru and Mexico.

In a lab experiment, low-income consumers were assigned a financial needs profile—such as having to make two withdrawals per month from a savings accounts and two balance inquiries—and then incentivized to choose the product that best fit their needs. In each round of the experiment, we tested different methods for providing summary product information. In Mexico, we tested comparative tables; in Peru, we tested a key facts statement (KFS) designed by the financial institutions; and in both countries we tested.

Smart investments? The costs of choice and excessive switching in pension funds

Alvaro Enrique Pedraza Morales's picture

Pension funds are rightly viewed as an important source of long-term capital in many countries. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, the theme of long-term investment and the role of institutional investors as providers of domestic capital for economic development has been high on policy makers’ agendas. Despite generally positive findings linking pension system development and economic growth, there are also plenty of disappointments. In too many countries, pension fund investments remain highly concentrated in bank deposits and traditional government bonds. This lack of diversification can be explained by many factors, for instance, unsupportive macro conditions, shortage of investment instruments, poor governance, limited investment knowledge, and regulations with restrictive asset class limits and excessive reliance on short-term performance monitoring.

International asset allocations and capital flows: the benchmark effect

Sergio Schmukler's picture

As financial intermediaries tracking benchmarks grow in importance around the world, the issue of which countries belong to relevant international benchmark indexes (such as the MSCI Emerging Markets) has generated significant attention in the financial world (Financial Times, 2015). The reason is that the inclusion/exclusion of countries from widely followed benchmarks has implications for the allocation of capital across countries.

As institutional investors become more passive, they follow benchmark indexes more closely. These benchmark indexes change over time, as index providers reclassify countries, implying that investment funds have to re-allocate their portfolio among the countries they target. The capital flows generated by these portfolio re-allocations are important because worldwide open-end funds that follow a few well-known stock and bond market indexes manage around 37 trillion U.S. dollars in assets (ICI, 2016).

Globalization and Banking

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

Since the global financial crisis of 2007, international banking has attracted heightened interest from policy makers, researchers, and other financial sector stakeholders. Perhaps no sector of the economy better illustrates the potential benefits—but also the perils—of deeper integration than banking. Before the crisis, international banks (banks that do business outside of the country they are headquartered in) were generally considered to be an important contributor to financial development as well as economic growth. This belief coincided with a significant increase in financial globalization in the decade prior to the crisis, particularly for banking institutions.

What do we know about the link between financial inclusion and inclusive growth?

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

Adults around the world and in all income groups use a variety of financial services, ranging from digital payments and savings accounts to loans and insurance. Many low-income adults, however, rely largely on informal financial services — 2 billion adults worldwide, or 38 percent, reported not having an account at a formal institution in 2014, according to Global Findex data. The World Bank has launched the ambitious goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020. This goal is not an end in itself. Rather, financial inclusion is a means to an end.

Which bring us to the question: What do we know about the link between financial inclusion and inclusive growth benefiting all income groups?

Not all eggs in the same basket? The role of sectoral specialization in the banking system

Thorsten Beck's picture

Students of systemic banking distress point to concentration in specific asset classes or sectors as one of the most important factors explaining these crises. The last two global crises are good examples: the simultaneous overexposure of several banks to the U.S. mortgage market initiated the global financial crisis `07–`08 and the overexposure of several banks to sovereign debt of distressed European countries severely deepened the European debt crisis of `11–`12. Given the importance of risk concentration in banking it is therefore surprising how little empirical evidence is available on the relationship between sectoral concentration and bank performance and stability. This absence of research is mainly explained with a lack of data. In recent work, we introduce a new methodology to measure sectoral specialization and differentiation and relate these measures to bank performance and stability (Beck, De Jonghe and Mulier, 2017).

Asia’s financial connections with the rest of the world: changing patterns

Ruth Llovet Montanes's picture

As economies in the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region have developed, they have also become important in international financial transactions, both as a source and destination of cross-border bank lending, foreign direct investments (FDI), and portfolio investments. But, as we document in a new paper (Didier et al., 2017), the composition of those financial connections has been changing in recent years in at least two fronts: (i) the partners with which EAP countries interact and (ii) the type of financial transactions conducted.

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